The government’s special maize production programme, which planned 400 000 hectares of the staple crop, only saw about 38 percent of that target planted by the second week of February, Agriculture Minister Joseph Made told Parliament today.
Through the programme, commonly known as ‘command agriculture’, government sought to guarantee the production of 2 million tonnes of maize, more than enough to meet the country’s annual demand.
However, the $500 million scheme was plagued by poor execution and logistical problems which saw many farmers receiving their inputs late.
Zimbabwe also had a nationwide shortage of top-dressing fertilizer, which manufacturers blamed on import delays caused by the central bank’s stringent foreign currency processing procedures.
Made told lawmakers that as at 9 February 153 000 hectares of ‘command agriculture’ land had been planted, out of 191 124 hectares that had been tilled.
Despite the underwhelming returns from ‘command agriculture’, an overall 61 percent increase in maize hectarage and above-normal rains have made the government optimistic that Zimbabwe, which produced just over 500 000 tonnes of maize in the 2015/16 season, will return to full self-sufficiency this year.
Made said the government requires $61 million to rehabilitate grain storage infrastructure.
Through its Grain Marketing Board, the government has capacity to store 4 million tonnes tonnes of maize, but the parastatal’s silos are in dire need of repair.
Undeterred by the limited success of the special maize production programme, Made announced that the government was launching a similar $140 million project for wheat.
The wheat programme, which is expected to start in April, will involve 70 000 hectares funded by private companies.
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